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2 000 Leagues Under The Martian Sea~

September 29, 2012

“They must have given it to me because they had some kind of feeling that they wanted to convey. Since it’s for the sake of those feelings…!”

Gram River, The Mars Daybreak

It’s an interesting show, The Mars Daybreak. Despite having little to no backstory in the animated series, the 26-episode work still manages to keep you watching… well, at least it tries to, anyways. But to someone like me, the concept is so interesting that can’t ever give the show up in good faith.

The plot stands thus; in the far future, Mars is flooded after a failed colonization attempt. Trying again resulted in the Martians living on floating cities called city-ships; Gram River, a mid-to-low class citizen, is one of them.

The ending of the Pan-Galatic War means that Mar’s greatest export, water, has suffered a sharp drop in demand. This means that the Mars economy has taken a really mind-rending hit, and of course it’s recessions and depressions for everyone. Jobless hobos litter the streets, petty crime is rampant, and… well, it’s general alley-street fare really, it doesn’t actually look half bad as it sounds bad.

Being a planet that’s literally drowning in life’s greatest resource, Mars is, of course, home to a great deal of pirates. Gram River is resourceful, he ain’t no street thief, but when the pirates of the Ship of Aurora come a-knockin’, he finds himself throwing in his lot with them to see where it takes him after he inadvertently helps them accidentally several underwater hangars in his resident city-ship, Adena (nope, the pirates don’t ask if it’s bad).

As he adjusts to the pirate life, Gram has to deal with the world outside his own city-ship, pursuit from the Earth-sent security forces led by Lauren Vestamona, a familiar face from his past, and the mystery surrounding the little trinket of a pendant around his neck that not only nabs him his own giant robot, but starts his whole journey as well.

First things first, I thought The Mars Daybreak was going to be something like Rahxephon, truth be told. This was my impression of the model kit boxart of the series’ main robot, Gram’s Round Buckler the Vector of Hope. Don’t ask me why, but that sleek look combined with its colors just gave that feel (nevermind the box description which runs counter to any mysterious feels you might have).

A quick glance through the first three episodes will quickly reveal a show that’s more like a distant cousin of Zoids Zero. Things are generally fun all around with any serious matters used as a backdrop; Gram is kind of a bro at things and always has a calm, street-smart aura around him regardless of whether he is actually on a street or not, and the crew of the Ship of Aurora, is diverse as can be. You can argue opinions that their personalities are so-so, but as looks go, a talking dolphin and talking cat are about as out there as can be when it comes to typical RPG-style world setups.

Gram’s own progression throughout the story is more of his interaction in a new environment than any kind of actual character growth; he is, after all, already rather high level when it comes to the character development chart. It’s kind of nice to see a character help others along with his own experiences once in a while, and being on a ship means that they can have a new plot and a new face almost every episode.

The story by itself would probably make for a pretty decent novel series; there’s a lot of backstory material to be exploited, ranging from the aforementioned Pan-Galactic War to the Mars Aborigines, the original colonists who survived the flooding, and even the Naval Witches, humanlike characters hinted at to posses great intelligence and technological power; one of them is on the ship of Aurora, while another character uses a Round Buckler that’s obviously several cuts above the rest and can’t be built with mere nuts and bolts.

Then there’s the lives of the Aurora’s crew; the general theme of a group of people travelling around Mars in a battle submarine is a pretty cool deal, and it’s a very big shame that the show gives you customary glances at these greater pieces of the backdrop only once in a while. It keeps things simple, but unfortunately there’s a lot of lost potential; not for a longer series, but for a vastly-expanded universe that could have branched out into a great deal of different genres without having to resort to explanations beyond basic physics (lol Mop Rub?)

Gram’s own character development only comes in drips; somewhere in the middle and in the last few episodes when he finally has the chance to come face-to-face with Vestamona; they’ve had a lot of misunderstandings throughout the show and he finally has a chance to set things right. In fact, the whole sub-plot of his care/evasion of Vestemona and her own feelings for him are settled so fact I’d caution about a lack of emotional tension when it comes to those parts.

In terms of animation, while the fights are few and far between the battles are never on a scale large enough that the show ever shows something new. Most of the time it’s well-drawn but recycled footage, although an important fight will showcase new moves that are just as impressive. The ships are mostly in 3D-CG, but considering that they animate the ships almost as much as the mecha it’s still within acceptable levels.The character art is decent, nice on the eyes, and even in the background doesn’t mean you’ll see any QUALITY getting in.

The Round Bucklers themselves are surprisingly not shown as much; the Ship of Aurora usually focuses on escaping instead of just rolling over everything in their path, and it’s kind of cool to see them struggle with numbers against them since it allows the characters to establish in a very fair manner just how good (or lousy) they are in a Round Buckler. Despite their low-screen time, the Round Bucklers have a good deal of thought put into the way they function. It’s not Universal Century-levels of extrapolation on the physics of magical beams, but the little details like artificial muscles, piloting aids and the advantages and disadvantages of both direct-piloted and remote-controlled Round Bucklers, bullets only being used at mid-to-close ranges that make the Round Bucklers in this show seem a great deal more realistic.

Overall, The Mars Daybreak is a decent, standalone show that could have been better. Maybe it was a lack of funding, or the people responsible never thought more about it, but focus too much on the backstory, and the lightheartedness of The Mars Daybreak might not be enough to fill the hole in your heart. Other than that, it’s a good, decently solid piece of anime for some side watching.

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